The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
Deary me, Readheads. This one will leave you shaken and stirred so if you are a dirty-martini-loving reader, pour yourself a stiff one and dive in. Same for those of you who prefer a good cup of tea – just make it a strong one.
I have not read anything from Chris Bohjalian before and that is my loss – he is quite the accomplished author. He can spin a mighty tale but listen up, The Guest Room requires commitment. Easy reading it ain’t – it’s pretty harrowing and if you’re like me at all, you will probably need to collect yourself from time to time.
All hell breaks loose when Richard hosts his brother’s bachelor party in his quiet and respectable (and posh) New York suburban family home. While debauchery was on the cards, what wasn’t was the murder of the two Russian minders of the young girls brought in to entertain the party goers. The two terrified girls violently kill their captors before escaping into the night leaving a literal bloodbath in their wake and a world of pain for those at the party – who I might add were left traumatized by what they saw but possibility more fearful about their indiscretions with the girls being discovered.
Richard, whose voice creates half of the story, must now face the fall out with his wife and daughter, his work and pretty much everything and everyone in his life. The second voice is Alexandra – one of the girls at the party who was abducted as a minor and raised brutally as a sex slave. An aspiring dancer in Armenia, she and her family believed she was being taken as a young teenager to a Dance Academy to study but the reality was horribly different. She was submitted to a terrifying life of prostitution – one she thought she would be freed from in her early twenties.
On the fateful night of the bachelor party, the girls discover one of their friends was murdered and now realising they would be next, they act.
All of this occurs early on in the book but you are carried beautifully along by Bohjalian right until the final pages when the last of the horrific things that could happen, does.
This story is a look at the dark and disgusting side of trafficking, the fragility of relationships and the unbreakable human spirit. Some reviewers have called it a page turner but I could only manage a handful of pages a sitting I felt that distressed at times.
Pop it on your to-read list. While you will definitely feel sorry for the characters, you won’t be sorry you put yourself in the middle of them.
And that is my 2 cents worth.